During the eighteenth century, Europeans experienced the dawning of an age of
knowledge, reasoning, and of great scientific achievements. Their views toward
new discoveries and advancements were optimistic. People began to turn to
science for a better understanding of their world and their society. Literature
and essays were commonly used to express their hopes for further developments in
society, politics, economy, and education. I. Individuals A. John Locke 1) Essay

Concerning Human Understanding (1690) a) Regarded the human mind of a person as
a blank slate. b) Did not believe in intuition or theories of innate conceptions

2) Two Treatise of Government. a) Attacked the theory of divine right of Kings.

b) Argued that sovereignty did not reside in the state but with the people. 3)

Some thoughts concerning education. a) Recommended practical learning to prepare
people b) Locke’s curriculum included conversational learning of foreign
languages, especially French, mathematics, history, physical education, and
games. B. Rene Descartes 1) Descartes's philosophy, sometimes called

Cartesianism. a) Elaborate explanations of a number of physical phenomena. 2)

Physiology a) Part of human blood was a subtle fluid, that he called animal
spirits. 3) Study of Optics a) Fundamental law of reflection: that the angle of
incidence is equal to the angle of reflection. b) Paved the way for the
udulatory theory of light. 4) Mathematics a) Systematization of analytic
geometry. b) First mathematician to attempt to classify curves according to the
types of equations that produce them. c) Made contributions to the theory of
equations. d) First to use the last letters of the alphabet to designate unknown
quantities and the first letters to designate known ones. e) Invented the method
of indices (as in x2) to express the powers of numbers. f) Formulated the rule
for finding the number of positive and negative roots for any algebraic
equation. C. Sir Isaac Newton 5) Mathematics a) Calculus: Generalized methods
being used to draw tangents to curves and to calculate the area swept by curves

6) Optics a) Opticks: Sunlight is a heterogeneous blend of different rays—each
of which represents a different color -and that reflections and refractions
cause colors to appear by separating the blend into its components. b)

Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica 7) Also showed interest in alchemy,
mysticism, and theology D. Voltaire (Francois Marie Arouet) 1) La Henriade (The

Henriad) 2) Two essays, one on epic poetry and the other on the history of civil
wars in France. 3) Lettres Philosophiques (The Philosophical Letters, 1734) 1. A
covert attack upon the political and ecclesiastical institutions of France. 4)
Élements de la philosophie de Newton (Elements of the Philosophy of Newton) 5)

Poème de Fontenoy (1745), describing a battle won by the French over the

English during the War of the Austrian Succession. 6) Siècle de Louis XIV, a
historical study of the period of Louis XIV. 7) Essai sur l'histoire générale
et sur les moeurs et l'esprit des nations (Essay on General History and on the

Customs and the Character of Nations, 1756) a. Decries supernaturalism and
denounces religion and the power of the clergy, although he makes evident his
own belief in the existence of God. 8) Le désastre de Lisbonne (The Lisbon

Disaster, 1756); a number of satirical and philosophical novels 9) He rejected
everything irrational and incomprehensible and called upon his contemporaries to
act against intolerance, tyranny, and superstition. E. Denis Diderot 1) Pensées
philosophiques (1746), which stated his deist philosophy. 2) Encyclopédie ou
dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des metiers, which is usually
known as the Encyclopédie a) French translation of the English Cyclopaedia by

Ephraim Chambers b) Used the Encyclopédie as a powerful propaganda weapon
against Ecclesiastical authority and the superstition, conservatism, and
semifeudal social forms of the time. 3) La religieuse (The Nun, 1796), an attack
on convent life. 4) Le neveu de Rameau (1805; translated as Rameau's Nephew) F.

Jean Jacques Rousseau 1) French philosopher, social and political theorist,
musician, botanist, and one of the most eloquent writers of the Age of

Enlightenment.) 2) Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Among Mankind 3)

Expounded the view that science, art, and social institutions have corrupted
humankind and that the natural, or primitive, state is morally superior to the
civilized state 4) The Social Contract 5) Developed a case for civil liberty and
helped prepare the ideological background of the French Revolution by defending
the popular will against divine right. 6) Émile a) expounded a new theory of
education emphasizing the importance of expression rather than repression to
produce a well-balanced, freethinking child. 7) The New Heloise and Confessions
introduced a new style of extreme emotional expression, concern with intense
personal experience, and exploration of the conflicts between moral and sensual
values. The Age of Enlightenment proposed ideas of reformation, and greater
human advancement. Europeans’ ideas of education, society, and politics were
optimistic. Their works of art, literature, and science, helped pave the way for
future advancements.


"Age of Enlightenment," Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 99 "Rene

Descartes" Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 99 "John Locke" Microsoft®

Encarta® Encyclopedia 99 "Sir Isaac Newton Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia

99 Buckler, John, Bennett D. Hill and John P. McKay. A History of Western

Society, A. 6th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999. "Age of

Enlightenment" http://www.EuroHist.org